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Cabinet Chooses Olmert to Become Prime Minister on Friday

With no change foreseen in Prime Minister Sharon's comatose condition, the Cabinet chose Ehud Olmert to become Prime Minister in his place. It takes effect on Friday - unless Sharon wakes up first.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 4/11/2006, 9:15 AM / Last Update: 4/11/2006, 11:45 AM

The Cabinet voted today to appoint Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as Prime Minister when Ariel Sharon becomes officially and permanently incapacitated this coming Friday. Friday will mark 100 days since Sharon was medically induced into a coma after his massive brain hemorrhage; the law states that a permanent replacement must be found for him at that time.

Olmert was originally elected to the Knesset in 1974, but later resigned in order to serve as Mayor of Jerusalem. In 2003, he resigned the mayoralty after he was re-elected to the Knesset - but only as the Likud's #32 candidate.

Despite his low placement, indicating minimal popularity in the Likud Central Committee, Olmert ran the Likud's electoral campaign of early 2003 - successfully helping the Likud win 38 seats - as well as the coalition-forming negotiations afterwards. He had hoped to be appointed Finance Minister by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, even saying at one point, "It's either Finance or nothing."

Just a few days later, however, after Sharon chose former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be Finance Minister, Olmert accepted the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Little did Olmert realize that his "loss" to Netanyahu paved the way for him to later become Prime Minister. This, because it was accompanied by a "consolation prize" of being named Acting Prime Minister, authorizing him to take over the Premiership in time of need. Olmert in fact assumed the powers of Prime Minister this past January, when Sharon became ill. At the same time, the newly-formed Kadima Party was seeking a leader and Prime Ministerial candidate to replace its founder Sharon - and Olmert, with his new powers, was the obvious choice.

Doctors say that no change is foreseen in the medical condition of Sharon, who underwent a routine CAT scan yesterday. Olmert is therefore likely to assume the Premiership this Friday - unrelated to his assumption of the post in his own right if and when he succeeds in forming a coalition government.